International Women’s Alliance Asia Pacific successfully launched with 32 organizations represented by 56 individuals from 16 countries.

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Following a successful two-day conference and a CSO-Parliamentarian dialogue on June 21-22, 2019 in Hong Kong. The conference, Women for Peace and Justice: Engaging stakeholders as advocates and peace builders to forward the call for peace and social justice in Asia Pacific was participated by members of IWA from Asia Pacific, the Americas, Middle East, and Europe, and welcoming new members from Korea, Cambodia, Myanmar and Hong Kong.

Despite visa restrictions which prevented many women from travelling to Hong Kong, participants from 16 countries gathered to share and talk about the impacts of  the worsening economic and political situation in the region, how to engage allies in and outside of parliamentary halls, to strengthen the anti-imperialist women’s movement in the region through stronger solidarity against the backdrop of the growing tyranny and fascism in the whole world.

Taking note of the important political and social mobilization in the streets of Hong Kong,  IWA Chairperson, Azra Talat-Sayeed, provided a well-informed and extensive keynote presentation on the geo-political situation of the region and specifically, the growing and more vicious economic and territorial rivalry among imperialist powers. She also highlighted that these rivalries are nothing but desperate attempts of imperialist powers to rescue capitalist economies from collapse at the expense of the lives and livelihood of poor people, a majority of which are found in Asia Pacific. She noted that the worsening economic situation shared among majority of the people of the Asia Pacific and other global regions, also gave birth to the growing and strengthening peoples’ and women’s movements to end imperialism and achieve better alternatives for the future, without oppression, repression, patriarchy, misogyny, and wars of aggression.  The strengthening of the women’s movements in the region, as Azra said, is an important role of IWA member organizations and must be achieved to unite a broader number of women, build allies among policy makers, to eventually defeat imperialism.

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Azra Sayeed, IWA Chairperson

Through workshops and sharings, the participants came up with specific regional campaign workplans to achieve women’s empowerment and rights at the grassroots level, security, peace, and justice, and the strengthening of women’s political participation.

The following workplans were identified:

  1. To actively participate in the the Global Women’s Strike spearheaded by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women and Development (APWLD), a founding member of IWA, and highlighting the issues of grassroots women in Asia Pacific;
  2. Participate in national and regional CSO reviews of the Beijing + 25 and ensure that national reports reflect the real situation of women on the ground and propose alternatives for women, and identify possible joint activities and actions during the 64th Session of the CSW in New York;
  3. Actively engage in SDG implementation reviews at the national level;
  4. Identify plans to participate and/or organize study conferences and learning exchanges among women taking note of back to back activities that can be maximized;
  5. Actively participate and engage more women at the national, regional, and international level to respond to issues and concerns of women to strengthen; and

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The conference noted the worsening threats to the lives and livelihood of women in the Asian region, with worsening situations of political repression, land grabbing, extractive development models, worsening situation and the rising tide of authoritarianism in many states/government in Asian region which is a gloomy reality to many women peasants, workers, and migrants struggling daily to survive in their very tumultuous times. This situation, for many women, makes their struggle against patriarchy even more difficult, as many of their rights fought for by women in the pasts are being eroded.

Among the highlights of the workshops are the engagement of young women activists by supporting and expanding their participation in all aspects of democratic exercises. Also, highlighted is the participation of women in many and various forms of struggle in their countries and communities including inside formal policy engagements, participation in community organizing, union struggles, creative cultural movements, and in some cases in armed struggles to defend their communities and building alternative societies.

Another highlight of the conference is the presentation of women parliamentarians of the Asian Women Parliamentarian Caucus from different countries, many of whom were women activists in their time and have gone through personal and political struggles to gain their rightful place in their parliament.  Overall, 12 parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, and South Korea openly listened to the result of the workshops and committed to working with CSOs in their countries and in the region to advance women’s rights and peace and justice in the region.

 

After the workshops, the women’s organizations and CSOs presented the following specific recommendations to the parliamentarians.

On the rights of women to work:

  • Ensure and develop more fostering environment that does condone impunity in any form, especially in the current social context, which will go beyond the national ratification and implementation of the CEDAW;
  • Review the implementation Beijing declaration and platform of actions especially in the context of discussing the SDGs that a more thorough discussions and goal-setting on how to address women inequality could be fostered at the national level policies;
  • That women’s rights should not be confined to goal 5 of the sustainable development goals, but in every discussion of SDGs;
  • To respond to calls for stronger policy protecting the rights of domestic workers, identifying and implementing specific policies to foster or ensure rights and protection for migrant workers, as well as cross-border coordination among countries in the Asian region, in and outside of Asia Pacific region; and
  • To commit in ensuring that health and safety in the workplace are safeguarded, that there are national laws that are implemented. Apart from this, the security of regular employment issues specifically on the issue of labor flexibilization and low wages are very much women’s concerns.

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Concerning peace security and justice

  • Particular economic policies in our countries such as trade and liberalization for example often lead to situation of increased militarization, rights violations and repression of people’s right to democratic participation. These are all interconnected;
  • Adoption of UN security council 1325 on peace and security, we note that in the Asian region where many states that are authoritarian and that where fundamentalism is a daily reality that women contend with. There’s a need to ensure that women are protected and that wherever there is discussion on peace, there should be a voice of women who suffer the most in war and security;
  • For ratification of the convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant and their families and ensure state accountability in ensuring protection of migrants; and
  • To legislate policies that would require trans national companies to respect environmental laws and also for states and third party institution to be granted the power to investigate the violation of the rights of the people by TNCs based on the third party documentation, especially those coming from the ground who have direct experience, who bare the brunt of multinational corporations that disrespect environmental safety and protection.

On political participation:

  • To respond to the call to help legislate national laws that protect women human rights defenders in this undeniably alarming situation. Specific laws could actually foster and provide necessary concrete tools against interests that are infringing in our exercise of our rights; and
  • Advocate facilitate space for women’s meaningful participation in all forms and avenue of democratic exercise.

Finally, as the conference ended with the women’s commitment to not wait for change and make the change themselves, the IWA Asia Pacific is united to plan, prepare, and work together for the 3rd IWA General Assembly on August 2020 and in celebration of the 10th year since the Montreal International Women’s Conference which gave birth to IWA.

The conference was co-organized with GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, Center for Women’s Resources, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Asian Women Parliamentarians Caucus, and with support from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and hosted by the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants.

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